> jumping into life.

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There is a calf in the compost pile.

There is an anger so sharp I can barely hold it, and grief setting her star-points into all my soft places.

Somehow, this is the death I cannot accept.

The calf was always going to die; we were always going to kill him. We were raising him for beef. The yearlings will go to slaughter this fall, and I was planning to eat them.

That didn't seem gruesome until now.

I sat with him, I don't know how long, crouched awkwardly in the narrow hay-bale pen, rain hard on the roof. A dozen times at least I thought he'd died, but I would stroke his cheek or throat and he'd flick an ear, or blink an eye. Once he lifted his nose, moved as if trying to stand. I cradled his head on my lap. For a long time I watched the pulse in his throat after everything else seemed to have stopped, when all my petting and cajoling could warrant no response. For a long time after I watched his throat, hoping.

The second calf - the bigger, stronger one from the start - seems fine. He nearly knocked over the hay-bale wall trying to get at the colostrum I was feeding the little one, and afterwards head-butted everyone he could as we moved him to clean the pen. This morning he was mouthing the bedding straw in imitation of the big boys next door, even though he hardly even has teeth.

I'm so sorry, baby cow.

I imagine that would be heartbreaking.

It was.

Oh, I'm sorry, Cat.

I know, it is weird when you were going to kill them anyway, but it's a weirdness written deep into Western culture. That's what herdsmen do: lovingly care for creatures they're going to eventually kill. It doesn't make the caring unreal.

Dale, yes. It's a deep weirdness, indeed; a paradox like most truths, I suppose. I will spend months giving my energy to the animals that will then become quite literally the source of that energy for the next year.

The same is true of plants, of course, but there is something undeniably different about the food that nuzzles you when you greet it every morning.

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